By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday urged local government units (LGUs) to address the plight of the homeless during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
Gatchalian said these homeless individuals are already part of a vulnerable population that suffer health problems and they too, may contract the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The senator noted that homeless people live in environments where they have little access to facilities for basic hygiene, making them more at risk for becoming infected with the disease.
He also said it is difficult for them to self-isolate from anyone who might be carrying the virus, and this in itself is already violative of the social distancing policy of the government.
“How can they self-quarantine if they have no place to live and stay apart from the others?” asked Gatchalian.
“Marami sa ating mga kababayan ang mas nanganganib na magkasakit dahil wala silang mauwian (Many of our people are in danger of falling sick because they have nowhere to live),” he pointed out.
“Kung nais nating pigilan ang pagkalat ng COVID-19, kailangan nating siguruhing ligtas at may masisilungan ang mga pamilyang walang tahanan, (If we want to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we need to ensure their safety and see to it that homeless people have someplace to stay).”
According to the lawmaker, one step to reduce homelessness nationwide is the establishment of a nursing home for abandoned and homeless senior citizens in every LGU.
This is why, he said, he filed Senate Bill No. 737 or the Homes for Abandoned Seniors Act of 2019, which takes inspiration from Valenzuela City’s own nursing home called Bahay Kalinga.
Citing Habitat for Humanity’s country profile for the Philippines, the senator said there are 4 million families living in unsafe, unsanitary, and unsustainable conditions.
Accordingly, the housing organization also reported that by 2030, the Philippines could have a backlog of 6.5 million units. Hope, a non-profit organization on children’s welfare, estimated in 2015 that there are 250,000 children on the streets nationwide, 30,000 of whom are in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Gatchalian also said shelters accommodating the homeless should be equipped to observe protocols in handling potential cases of COVID-19.
This requires close collaboration with health officials and improved capacity for identifying and reporting symptoms related to the virus, he said.